Wednesday, 6 February 2019
Ceisteanna - Questions - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
I have been addressing the immediate Brexit challenges through a range of budgetary measures aimed at improving competitiveness and developing market and product diversification. These measures include a €150 million low-cost loan scheme in 2017 to help reduce farm gate business costs and a dedicated €50 million Brexit package in budget 2018, which included further additional funding to Bord Bia and Teagasc, as well as a contribution to a €300 million Brexit loan scheme, at least 40% of which is available to food businesses. In budget 2019, I announced a €78 million Brexit package for farmers, fishermen and food SMEs to cover additional costs related to Brexit. My colleague, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, also announced the future growth loan scheme,which will be rolled out in 2019 and for which I had made provision of €25 million in 2018. The scheme will provide long-term unsecured investment finance for farmers and small-scale companies in the food and seafood sectors.
On market and product diversification, the additional funding I have provided to Bord Bia has been used, inter alia, to provide targeted advice to individual companies, as well as to conduct a market prioritisation exercise that is now informing our approach to market diversification activities, including the choice of destinations for trade missions. Product diversification also has been supported through additional funding of €8.8 million to Teagasc to develop its national food innovation hub and funding to support investment in the prepared consumer foods sector.
I, and my officials, have been working hard for some time to sensitise other member states and the European Commission to the potentially highly severe impacts of Brexit on the Irish agrifood and fisheries sectors and to the likelihood of specific supports being required to deal with these impacts. Most recently, I held a bilateral meeting with Commissioner Hogan last week to discuss the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit on the Irish agrifood and fisheries sectors. Commissioner Hogan reiterated the EU's readiness to respond and support Ireland and we will remain in contact on these issues as the situation evolves.
As regards contingency planning, my Department has been actively participating in the whole-of-Government approach to preparedness and contingency planning. We have fed into the overall Government contingency action plan, which was published on 19 December, and we have been working closely with colleagues in other Departments and agencies to address, in particular, the requirements that will arise in relation to the implementation at ports and airports of import controls on agrifood products coming from the UK. These requirements are significant and arise in respect of the carrying out of documentary, identity and physical checks on imports of animals, plants and products of animal and plant origin, as set out in EU legislation. Work in this regard has been focused on three key areas, namely, infrastructure, staffing and information technology and in three key locations: Dublin Port, Rosslare Port and Dublin Airport.
Throughout all of this work, the focus of the Department will continue to be on the need to discharge its legal responsibilities while ensuring the minimum possible disruption to trade.